How to Create a Wedding Budget

No matter how much or how little money you have for your wedding, a budget will help keep you from spending more than you'd anticipated. If you track your expenses carefully, you might even come in under budget! Let this motivate you: Anything that's left over in the wedding budget can be used for a new home, car, or vacation!

Answer Some Questions

  • What is your wedding philosophy?
  • Who's paying for the wedding and how much do you/they have? (Remember, the more people there are funding the wedding, the more opinions you will need to take into consideration throughout your planning.)

Pick Your Tool

If you're a math loving technophobe, by all means, create your wedding budget with paper and pencil. For the rest of us, there's Excel, Google Sheets, or a wedding planning website such as Wedding Wire or The Knot.

  • Excel Document:

While Excel is a powerful spreadsheet tool, it is difficult to share updated versions with your fiancé, parents, or other wedding money decision makers because your spreadsheet is saved onto your computer's hard drive.

  • The Knot or Wedding Wire:

TheKnot.com and WeddingWire.com both have free budgeting tools. This a great option if you're feeling overwhelmed because you don't know where to start. There are suggested fields for you to fill in under headings such as "Reception," and "Ceremony." This means you don't have to come up with much from scratch.

You can just skip the fields that aren't applicable to you. The downside is that it's not easy to share with others, although it is printable. I didn't end up using this tool, but the suggested fields did guide the creation of my budget.

  • Google Sheets:

The advantage of Google Sheets is that you can easily share them with others. If you have a Gmail account, you can create a Google Sheet for free. You can adjust the settings so the people you share it with can view the sheet or view and edit it.

Create Your Budget Document

Your budget needs three columns. "Items," "Projected Cost," and "Actual Cost". Don't forget to use a sum formula at the bottom of your Projected Cost and Actual Cost columns which will total up each amount for you.

Recognize the Difference Between Negotiables and Non-Negotiables

Using your wedding philosophy, you and your fiancé can decide what is important enough to you to splurge on, and what would be okay to cut in order to save money. For every couple, these things will be different.

For example, as ridiculous as it may sound, one of the few dreams I had for my wedding was to have an inflatable bounce house at my reception! I didn't care what it would cost; I had to have it. My parents really wanted to serve coffee at the reception, but I felt coffee had nothing to do with my wedding philosophy, and it just wasn't a priority to me like the bounce house.

Needless to say, our wedding guests jumped around in a bounce house, caffeine-free. Your list of. It is totally possible for you to stay within budget and go all out on some things, as long as you're willing to save on details that aren't as important to you. Your list of negotiables vs. non-negotiables will allow your budget to focus on what you can buy, instead of what you can't.

Research

Browse our Local Venues & Vendors Directory, make phone calls, and search the Internet to get estimates for the items you envision for your wedding, and enter the prices into your budget under Projected Cost. Start with big ticket items such as venue, catering, and photography or any extremely important non-negotiables.

Then, move onto smaller, negotiable details like your rhinestone "BRIDE" bathrobe. Leave wiggle room for unexpected expenses because they will pop up! (It's going to be 30 degrees hotter on our wedding day than we expected!? We better buy more water bottles!)

Once you've seen your projected expenditures, you and your fiancé may need to discuss tweaking some things in order to stay within your budget. 

Record Your Purchases

As you make purchases and book vendors, carefully keep a record in the Actual Cost column of your budget. It is much easier to enter prices into the budget immediately after each purchase than it is to try to remember them accurately later. Don't forget, you might have to cut some of those negotiable items. ("GROOM" boxer briefs??)

Stay True to Your Wedding Philosophy

Creating the budget isn't the hard part; sticking to your budget is the hard part. When disagreements arise about how to spend the budget (and they will arise) check to see if the expenditures in question align with your wedding philosophy to keep decision making simple.

What are some negotiable expenditures you're going to cut in order to stay within your budget? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Photography by Jon Stars